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 (Manna 25: Walking Together)
The Product of Faith
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HSIEHCHUNG KUANG (TAIWAN, TRANSLATED)

The Gospel of Matthew records four occasions on which Jesus chided the disciples for lacking faith, calling them “men of little faith”. On two occasions, He was referring to their doubt (Mt 14:31; 16:8). The third occasion saw Him focusing on their needless worry (Mt 6:30-31); and the fourth incident found Him rebuking them for their unfounded fear (Mt 8:26).

The disciples had been following Jesus for three years. They had seen Him perform many miracles. Sadly though, none of them was commended as a man of faith. Instead they were all called “men of little faith”. Even Peter was not spared, which goes to show that cultivating faith is not an easy task. But once we have faith, we shall overcome every doubt, worry and fear.

Overcoming Doubt

One night Jesus walked on the sea towards the disciples. The disciples were terrified, convinced that they had seen a ghost. But immediately, Jesus identified Himself and told them not to be afraid. Then Peter answered saying, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” Jesus replied, “Come.” Peter then got out of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus. However when he saw the wind, he became afraid and as he started to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus instantly stretched out His hand and caught him, saying “Oman of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:25-31).

After we have believed in the Lord, all may seem fine initially and we run the heavenly path with faith; but when afflictions appear, our faith may be shaken and we begin to doubt the salvation of God. We wonder why, after believing in the Lord, we meet with disasters instead of peace. Our faith starts to waver. If at this moment, we can call out like Peter “Lord, save me!”, and pray earnestly, we may once again ex­perience the grace of God and increase our faith.

On another occasion, the disciple forgot to take some bread along when they went out. Jesus told them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed amongst themselves and concluded, “We brought no bread.” Jesus, aware of this, said, “O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not understand nor remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?” (Mt 16:5-9). The disciples’ discussion about bread reflected their weakness of faith.

In Matthew 6, the Lord considers those who ask, “What shall we eat?”, “What shall we drink?”, “What shall we wear?” as “men of little faith”. While it is true that food and clothing are necessities of life, many have over-emphasised their importance.

The two incidents above teach us that one who has no faith doubts and that the reason for doubt is the lack of faith, for “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). One whose hope is assured (having faith) will have no doubts, for such assurance would be as good as the actual possession of the thing one hopes for.

Overcoming Worry

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (Mt 6:25-34).

When I was still a new believer having the “first confidence” (Heb 3:14), would cry each time I read this passage about the promise of God. As time went by, I began to experience moments of weakness during which I would worry about my livelihood. Earning a living is the most common worry in a person’s life. A man slogs daily in order to secure a livelihood. But if he has faith, and believes that God will provide as promised: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things - what we shall eat, what we shall drink and what we shall wear - shall be ours” (Mt 6:33), what is there to worry about?

Besides our livelihood, there are many other worries in life. Sickness, bereavement, children - the list is endless. But a man of faith remains composed even on the verge of death. He will be like Paul, who welcomed death with much delight (Phil 1:21-23; 2 Tim 4:7-8) or Peter who, though imprisoned and about to be brought before Herod, could sleep peacefully between two soldiers, bound with chains (Acts 12:5-6).

The Holy Spirit gives us faith and fills our hearts with God’s love (1 Cor 12:9; Rom 5:5). As long as we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will be able to enjoy heavenly bliss whilst on earth. Why then should we worry? Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). Believers often equate receiving the Holy Spirit with gaining heaven. This leads them to neglect prayer life subsequently. As a consequence, they are not filled with the Holy Spirit, do not get to experience joy in the spirit, cannot get rid of sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, or lead a sanctified life (Rom 8:2; 2 Thess 2:13). There is little difference in their lives before and after receiving the Holy Spirit. This thus makes them doubt the power of the Holy Spirit. They do not realise that it is only through prayer that in-filling can be experienced, and the power realised. Those who wish to have the joy of the spirit should pray to be filled.

Overcoming Fear

            “And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. And His disciples came to Him, awoke Him, saying ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing.’ And He said to them ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” (Mt 8:23-26).

Jesus was in the boat with His disciples. But because He was asleep, the disciples lost their faith. Similarly when our prayers fail to produce immediate results we lose faith and become disheartened, and may even stop praying altogether. One who has faith would believe that in everything “God means it for good” (Gen 5&.20) and “it is good for me that I was afflicted” (Ps 119:71). He would be without doubt, without worry and without fear; he would constantly give thanks to God for His beautiful will, whether in chastisement or during trials. If we are still fearful, we need to pray even more earnestly and, like the disciples who managed to rouse Jesus from sleep, be persistent till our prayers are answered.

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and they came to the shore of the Red Sea. When they saw the Egyptian army approaching, the people became afraid and blamed Moses. But Moses remained undaunted and calm, telling the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.” (Ex 14:9-14). How could Moses remain unperturbed at such a critical hour? Where did he find the strength to comfort and encourage the people? It must have been through his great faith in God - after all, he had performed ten mirades through the power of God before he was able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Paul had no one to help him during his internment in Rome; many even left him. But he could feel the Lord by his side, strengthening him, so that he was able to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and be rescued from the lion’s mouth. He said, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for His heavenly kingdom.” (2 Tim 4:16-18). The sense of the divine presence added to his strength.. Despite the adverse circumstances he was in, he was able to proclaim the message of God to the Gentilea. This was because of the faith that had been generated in him by the abundant grace he had received from the Lord.

The Bible records, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear.” (1 Jn 4:18). Such kind of love has to be cultivated with faith. John reiterated “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 Jn 4:16). “All who keep His commandments abide in Him, and He in them. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.” (1 Jn 3:24; Rom5:5). We know also, that the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, for those who have received the Holy Spirit, as long as they pray constantly, there is nothing to fear.

Conclusion

Paul wrote, “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13). Faith, hope and love are the three elements one must not lack. Even though the greatest of them is love, faith comes first. Only faith can produce hope and love. This is why faith precedes hope and love. Paul also wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Rom 15:13). From this, we can see how important having faith is it fills us with joy and peace. Is not joy and peace that which everyone desires? But we do not realise that joy and peace can only come through our faith. We fail to receive many blessings of God because we do not have enough faith to meet the message of God we hear (Heb 4:2). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). It is no wonder then that even the apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith (Lk 17:5).

 

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